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Orioles’ Mike Elias: Character issues could rule out possible acquisitions; MLB announces drug, draft changes

Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said this week at baseball’s winter meetings that red flags in a potential free agent or trade acquisition’s background, depending on their degree, could be disqualifying.

With the Orioles’ middle infield needs as significant as they are, there’s been speculation that former Chicago Cubs All-Star shortstop Addison Russell could be an option on a short-term deal. Russell was suspended for part of 2018 and 2019 under MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy for allegations made by his wife.

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“I think we always look at that in any case,” Elias said. “We’re always looking at case-by-case aspects about players’ backgrounds and reputations and makeup, and we would generally speaking weigh that into the evaluation. But that said, I do think there are certain degrees of background issues that can and would rule out players for us in any market.”

While players in similar circumstances have been given chances to continue their career — Houston Astros closer Roberto Osuna was acquired in 2018 while suspended under the same policy — Elias seemed to indicate the relative low stakes of the 2020 Orioles season wouldn’t sway a decision on such a player one way or another.

In that sense, the fact that the Orioles won’t be contending could be interpreted as a signal that they can take a risk on such a player, or that a player with any kind of red flags wouldn’t be worth the risk for a team with such modest ambitions anyway.

Baltimore as a sports town is no stranger to such questions after the charges against Ravens running back Ray Rice for domestic violence in 2014, an episode that brought violence against women to the forefront in sports locally and nationally.

MLB announcements on drugs, draft

Major League Baseball announced Thursday that minor league players would no longer be subject to testing for marijuana, effective at the beginning of spring training.

The decision to remove marijuana from the drug of abuse category in drug testing puts the minor league system on the same level as the major league system in that respect, while all players going forward will be tested for opioids, fentanyl, cocaine and synthetic THC. Those testing positive will only face discipline if they fail to cooperate with an evaluation and treatment program.

Additionally, commissioner Rob Manfred announced this week that the MLB Draft will be held in Omaha, Nebraska, in concert with the College World Series in June. Instead of beginning on Monday, June 8, it will begin Wednesday, June 10 to accommodate players who are still competing in their collegiate seasons.

“I want to thank NCAA President Mark Emmert for his cooperation and participation in this,” Manfred said. “Obviously you know I've been working on this for a while, but we think that for NCAA and Major League Baseball, we've got to a solution that's good for everybody and really good for the game.”

Oriole Bird a Hall of Famer

The Oriole Bird, the recognizable mascot of the Orioles, was named part of the four-member Class of 2020 for the National Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Indiana.

At the June 14 induction ceremony, the Oriole Bird will be joined in the class of inductees by Youppi! of the Montreal Canadiens, Boomer of the Indiana Pacers, and Blue of the Indianapolis Colts.

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